Jackie Peterson is an independent curator and exhibit developer in Seattle, Washington. She curated an exhibition called “The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford” at the Northwest African American Museum from October 2015-March 2016. In this interview, Peterson describes the exhibition and what she learned about African American experiences at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. She explains how African Americans came to the Tri-Cities, the kinds of work they were able to obtain, and the (largely informal) segregation they faced.
Gayleen: Oh, I’m Gayleen Meservey, M-e-s-e-r-v-e-y, first name Gayleen, G-a-y-l-e-e-n.
I started as a data processing clerk at the Site in 1964, following a short stint in San Francisco at a technical school to train me to operate data processing machinery. We were actually involved in measuring the reactions that the scientists produced in the reactors, giving them the data that would help them to predict the tests and to go on.
Gayleen Meservey grew up in Idaho Falls, and worked at Idaho National Laboratory. She describes the bus rides to and from the lab, which often involved card games and occasionally getting stuck in the snow. She discusses the positive relationship between the laboratory and the town, and how the influx of scientists transformed the town and the state. She also explains the incredible change in computers from the 1960s through the early 2000s, and what it was like to work on early computers.
Cindy Kelly: All right. We can start with something very simple. Tell us your name and spell it.
Bill Ginkel: I’m Bill Ginkel, G-i-n-k-e-l. I came to Idaho in 1950 out of the Manhattan Project and its successor agency. I was actually employed by the Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge in connection with material accountability at the time, and the opportunity to come to Idaho emerged. I was a little skeptical to start with, but it seemed like an extraordinary challenge to get in at the beginning of an operation as potentially big as it was.
Bill Ginkel served as the Manager of Office Operations for the Idaho Falls laboratory of the Atomic Energy Commission. In this interview, he describes his experience working at the facility beginning in 1950. He recalls the pioneering work conducted at the laboratory and the occasional methodological divide between the scientists and engineers. He also explains the transformative effects the influx of nuclear scientist had upon the local community and the state, and why the area was referred to as “The Site.”
Kelly: You can tell us your name, and spell it.
Meservey: Okay. Richard Meservey. Most people call me Dick, and Meservey is spelled M-e-s-e-r-v-e-y.
Kelly: Why don’t you tell us, what’s your educational background, and what brought you to the site and when?
Richard “Dick” Meservey is a nuclear physicist who worked at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). In this interview, he describes the rewarding projects he worked on at INL including the Special Power Excursion Reactor Test and the Advanced Test Reactor. He lauds the unusual freedom that scientists enjoyed working in Idaho Falls, and explains why he came to love living in Idaho Falls.
CJ Mitchell: It’s CJ Mitchell, Junior. That’s just CJ. No periods or anything. It doesn't stand for anything. And Mitchell – M-I-T-C-H-E-L-L.
Kelly: Great. I would have made that mistake. Just like Harry Truman. It’s Harry S Truman, no period.
Mitchell: Yeah, my dad was a CJ as well.
Kelly: Was he?
Kelly: You’re a junior. We started chatting, but why don’t you tell us for the camera, where you're from and how you came to Richland.
CJ Mitchell grew up in northeastern Texas. In this interview, he describes moving to Hanford after graduating from high school in 1947. Only sixteen years old, Mitchell took a job working on the trailer park in North Richland, and worked on other construction projects. At first, he lived in a tent with his relatives in East Pasco.
Alexandra Levy: I’m Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. I’m here on September 13, 2018 in Chantilly, Virginia with Norris Jernigan. My first question is for you to please say your name and to spell it.
Norris Jernigan: Okay. I’m Norris Jernigan. That's N-O-R-R-I-S. Jernigan is J-E-R-N-I-G-A-N. You would be surprised how some people pronounce it. It's comical.
Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.